Infections With Novel Coronavirus

21/02/2020

Rectorate of RWTH has updated its recommendations for university members

  Chinese Flag Copyright: Claudia Pankanin

The Chinese province of Hubei, including the metropolis of Wuhan, and the cities of Wenzhou, Hangzhou, Ningbo, and Taizhou in the province of Zhejiang, are currently considered risk areas for the coronavirus. Other countries are now also reporting cases of infection outside China, including a number of cases in Germany that have been confirmed by the health authorities. According to the German Federal Ministry of Health, a total of 75,765 cases have been reported worldwide, 2,129 of which have been fatal.

The Rectorate of RWTH is at present providing daily updates, adapting possible measures in dealing with this special situation, and asking its staff and students to be considerate towards each other and take a cautious approach to the topic.

The University strongly recommends that university members refrain from traveling to China at this time. Cooperation partners in China should be contacted via other means of communication, such as telephone, video, or web conferences. In addition to possibly risking infection, travelers must currently expect considerable travel restrictions within and to China.

In light of the further spread of infections with the novel coronavirus in China, the university management of RWTH recommends the following preventive measures to protect both staff and visitors:

Can I still travel to China?

According to the Rectorate’s decision, all business trips that are still to be undertaken must be reported to central administration. This means either a notification via the Business Trip Portal when the business trip is submitted for approval or by contacting directly. Likewise, all employees returning from (private or business) trips to China should contact Division 8.3 so that they can be informed about specific recommendations regarding the coronavirus. Besides stating their personal details (last name, first name, university institution/code, email address), these individuals should also indicate their date of return to Germany.

What are the possible signs of infection?

The incubation period for infection with the coronavirus is about ten days (1 to 14 days). Visitors, students, and others who have been in China and especially in the above named regions, since January 1, 2020, should pay attention to the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • General malaise

What should I do if I have any of these symptoms?

It is hard to tell the coronavirus apart from other respiratory illnesses and influenza due to its unspecific symptoms. If you notice you have one or more of the symptoms above within 14 days of leaving China, it is strongly recommended that you contact your family doctor by phone to discuss how to proceed. Avoid all unnecessary contact with other people and, if possible, stay at home. You can contact the University Medical Center for advice via or by telephone at +49 241 80 94444. We can include an interpreter, if the need arises. Please refrain from unannounced visits to the University Medical Center.

Who is at risk of infection?

An infection should be suspected in all persons who show symptoms and who have been in the above named risk area within the last 14 days before the onset of the illness or who show symptoms and have had contact with a person with a confirmed coronavirus infection within the previous 14 days.

How can I tell if I have been infected?

If you have symptoms and have been in a risk area or have had contact with a person with a confirmed coronavirus infection within the previous 14 days before the onset of the disease, you should get tested using PCR diagnostics. Please make sure you contact a family doctor in advance to request this test. You can find local family doctors on the website of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Nordrhein. The University Medical Center will also be happy to help you get in contact with them.

How high is the risk of infection?

Based on the information available, the risk of the coronavirus infection spreading among the German population is currently estimated to be low.

How can I protect myself?

Good hand hygiene, covering your coughs and sneezes, avoiding close contact with others, and personal protective equipment for medical staff can protect against respiratory diseases and are recommended preventative measures anyway in view of the current wave of influenza. Please abide by the following recommendations for good cough etiquette:

  • Keep a distance of at least one meter from other people when sneezing and coughing.
  • Sneeze and cough into a disposable tissue.
  • Always wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing, and coughing.
  • If you do not have a tissue to hand, you should keep the crook of your arm in front of your face when coughing and sneezing.

What should I do if I have recently returned from a trip to China?

We recommend all individuals who have recently returned from China – this also includes cooperation partners and guests – avoid contact with others as much as possible during the incubation period. It is always possible to contact each other via alternative forms of communication, such as video and telephone conferences. All other appointments can also be held over the telephone or via email. With regard to contractual work obligations, work may be undertaken at home rather than at the office on the RWTH campus, as far as feasible, during the incubation period.

RWTH students who have recently returned, or will return to Germany following a stay in China, are asked to contact us by . The affected students are also asked to avoid all contact with others, especially crowds, as much as possible during the incubation period of 14 days following their return. If such students have an upcoming exam at RWTH, they should contact their examiner to clarify if and how they can still take the exam. Examiners will be advised on how to deal with such requests and informed on possible and appropriate courses of action.

What should students who have to enroll at RWTH for the first time do?

We recommend that students who are new to RWTH and come from the affected regions avoid contact with others as much as possible during the incubation period and are therefore only to enroll online. For further information, new students should contact Division 2.1 – International Office at +49 241 80 90674 or by .

Where can I find further information on this topic?

It is important you closely follow the latest information provided by the German Federal Foreign Office, the Robert Koch Institute, and the German Federal Centre for Health Education, BZgA for short. The BZgA also provides information on protecting yourself from the novel coronavirus. The Rectorate is monitoring the situation carefully in order to initiate further appropriate measures in case of acute need.

For information in English, please see the following websites:

German Foreign Office

World Health Organization

For information in German, please see the following:

German Federal Centre for Health Education – BZgA

Infektionsschutz.de

Robert Koch Institute

Robert Koch Institute (Infectious Diseases)

Information from the German Foreign Office for Employees and Travelers (PDF)